Friday, November 17, 2017

Whisper and Void Excerpt: Battle in a Graveyard


-There's a new Penny Dreadful for sale on Drive Thru RPG, Jurassic Faux. If you needed some dinosaurs running around and causing trouble in your version of Malifaux. Plus, I'm sure there are some Fae in here, also. Here's the synopsis. 

The University of Malifaux is launching an expedition into the Wildlands, the primordial forest that sprang up around the ruins of Nythera when Titania was released from her prison. The purpose of the expedition is to gather biological samples for further research, but one of the professors has his eye on a specific prize: the fabled Malisaurus Rex.

Unfortunately, the Wildlands are more dangerous that the University expected, and the Malisaurus Rex is very, very hungry...

Jurassic Faux is a challenging One Shot adventure for the Through the Breach roleplaying game. It requires the Core Rules to play.

-A patch for the Bad Things Happen app was pushed out on the 13th. It fixes a ton of the known issues. I'm not going to copy and paste the whole list here. Go ahead and check it out.

-We don't actually know what's going to be sale on Black Friday, yet, which is odd. We do know one thing that will be there, however, and that's the alternate Rasputina box featured in the image above. I like it a lot. Don't know if I'll be able to pick it up, but it's very cool. Plus, the Krampus counts as a Snowstorm, making it so you don't have to buy another box to have this key critical piece for Raspy crews.

-I've been plugging away at my novel (you can follow my progress on the NaNoWriMo page here.) As I've been working on it, I've been letting my Pandora (the music app, not the master) wander through some new inspiration music and pulling pieces out into a Spotify playlist. It's called Malifaux Musings. Follow the link and, if you have a song that you think really embodies the spirit of Malifaux, it'd be cool if we all built this together. 

-Speaking of doing things together, what little forward momentum we had on the Patreon account has kind of stalled. The page is here, and I'd like you to really consider chipping in and helping out. I'm not asking for a lot. If you have an extra dollar a month, I'd love to have it to help expand Malifaux Musings. As always, I appreciate the hell out of everybody who has contributed so far. 


Whisper and Void

A Death Marshals Story

By: Adam Rogers

Author’s note: This section occurs between chapter 1, detailing Burns’ recruitment and training, and chapter 3 when his recruiter teaches him the magic to use his casket. 

Chapter 2

Vinton wasn’t the worst of the lot, not by a long stretch. He wasn’t easy, mind you. I couldn’t tell you how many of my bones he ended up breaking, but I’m sure he’d tell you every one of them was a lesson. He had the very annoying habit of letting you know, every time you failed, how easily avoidable your discomfort should have been. “Oh, you didn’t notice that rune scribed in the door frame? Hmm, if you had, perhaps your arm wouldn’t currently be on fire. Let that be a lesson to you: the enemy will never face you on your terms. They will lay traps. They will stab you in the back. They will try every underhanded, sidewinding trick a man’s ever pulled on another man before they stand and face you, for you are Justice come to end them. Now, quit your belly-aching, put yourself out, and reset to position one.” The difference between Vinton and the others was that you got the impression, from time to time, that he actually wanted you to succeed rather than just gaining grim amusement from your suffering.
               He came to us one hot summer evening when we were dragging ourselves back to our barracks and the sweet oblivion of the four hours they allotted for us to sleep. He pulled a half-dozen cadets out of line, myself among them, and took us towards a horse cart resting on the drillfield grounds. “You lot have a job tomorrow morning. Do it well, and you’ll get double food ration in the evening. How does that sound?”
               The beige, flavorless gruel that served as our “rations” weren’t quite the enticement we had hoped for, but all of us knew better than to turn down an instructor. We reluctantly nodded, but a cadet with more attitude than sense stepped forward anyways. “What’s the job?” he asked, disregarding the warning looks everyone else was shooting him.
               Vinton smiled. “Nothing too difficult or dangerous, Burns. You’re just going on bag duty.”

               Bag duty. It was a euphemism with which we were all familiar, as the groans elicited by Vinton’s announcement would testify. Malifaux is an old city, you see, even though our arrival in it is relatively new. Who or whatever built the place did so a long time ago and lived, worked, and died there just as we do. And when one of their own died, the city’s residents had to do something with the bodies. In one of the numerous parallels between their culture and ours, the dead of ancient Malifaux were interred in cemeteries scattered across the city, their final resting places marked with gravestones inscribed with names and dates in their own, indecipherable language. These cemeteries were sprinkled throughout the city, often in places that defied logic. More than a few of the early explorers were following what appeared to be a major thoroughfare through the heart of the city, only to discover that it dead-ended in a graveyard right where they expected to find a hub connecting several side streets. The logic of this city’s Neverborn architects never ceased to baffle.
               Normally this would just be a nuisance of navigation, but Malifaux was not a normal city. Instead, it was a city filled with people who spontaneously manifested magical abilities they didn’t know how to control, and some of them learned to manipulate the dead for their own ends. No two necromancers ever seemed to use the same methods, but the need for corpses was a recurrent theme. You can’t raise a dead body without some bodies to work on, after all. More inexperienced Rezzers had an even greater need, as they were only just learning to control their power and their early experiments often ruined the corpse without yielding anything useful. A lot of them start out working on animals, but for whatever reason they all seem to move on to people, which presents a problem. They needed a lot of raw materials for their craft, and you can’t exactly pick up a new dead body at the store when you need one. Many a burgeoning necromancer has turned to serial murder, of course, but that takes skill and craft that most don’t possess to do it undetected for long. No, it was easier if you had a supply of corpses ready to hand. Thus, we learned to keep an eye on any human corpses, making these Neverborn cemeteries too tempting a target for your average necromancer to ignore and too dangerous a threat for us to overlook.
Whenever we found one, a detachment from the Marshalls would be sent to “sanctify” the site. This process involved digging up often dozens of ancient graves, buried beneath hard-packed soil that hadn’t been disturbed in centuries. Once the body was exhumed, the heads of the bodies were removed, bagged (thus, bag duty), and shipped to a crematorium. With no intact skull, the body was ruined for most practices, which was good enough for us. If the crew doing the job was particularly dutiful, the bags were catalogued so the ashes could be returned to their proper resting place afterwards. When we farmed the work out to laborers from outside the Guild, however, they usually ended up dumping them somewhere and forgetting them. Thus, cadets were often given the job instead. If we shirked on doing it properly, we could at least be lashed afterwards.
The graveyard we were assigned was located in the western slums, tucked behind a warehouse whose broken windows glared at us like angry eye sockets while we worked. There were a dozen of us that day, muttering imprecations against our instructors and their relatives while driving our spades and pickaxes into the earth. We had abandoned our woolen uniform tops in the hot summer sun, leaving them slung over the side of the cart we’d checked out from the academy to transport our tools. It raised a few eyebrows when Elizabeth Heffron had joined us in disrobing, but none of us had much time or use for modesty anymore. This particular cemetery was about an acre and filled with easily a hundred graves, so we knew this was going to be a multiple day job. I didn’t mind the work, since it meant having a day free from the shouts of “encouragement” our instructors often chose to lather on us. Many of the others, however, would gladly have driven their picks through Vinton’s abdomen rather than digging up another wooden box.
It was midday when I first saw something out of the corner of my eyes. It was nothing but a flicker of movement at the edge of my vision, but I still reflexively spun in place, scanning near the wrought iron fence surrounding the graveyard for any sign of what had drawn my attention.
There was nothing there.
“The hell you doin’, Burns?” shouted Mobera from the grave next to mine. He flashed his wide, easy smile from his dark-skinned, sweat soaked face. It was all I could see of him at the moment, as he was currently standing in the bottom of the almost six-foot hole he’d dug. “You’re not wearing out, are you? It’s barely past noon!” The Abyssinian had taken a personal interest in giving me a hard time from the first day of our training. I never knew why, but I’d always suspected that the open secret that Vinton had recruited me personally probably had something to do with it.
“Of course not, Alton,” I shot back, “You know I only really get into a rhythm after the first six hours of work, anyways.”
He’d laughed at that. “Well, from what I can see, I could go for a bit of your ‘rhythm’ myself. Looks like about the level of effort I’d expect from a –“
“I saw something, you pain in the ass,” I cut him off. “Something on the outside of the graveyard. Felt like it was watchin’ us.”
Without another word, he hefted his massive frame up and out of the hole to stand next to me. We both scanned the perimeter slowly, the only sound coming from the other work crew and from his idly dusting his hands off on the front of his work-slacks. “I don’ know, Burns,” he finally said. “I don’t see anything. You sure you don’ got heat stroke? I know you got a delicate constitution, an’ all.”
I was about to let him know exactly where he could shove his opinion of my constitution when a shout came from the other side of the graveyard. We whirled in place, ready to find that the enemy I’d imagined was standing there waiting, only to spot another cadet waving sadly for the others to come lend a hand. They’d struck a coffin, and this one was made of marble rather than wood.
These were the bane of our existence. They were solid stone, weighed a ton, and getting them hauled out of the hole without special equipment was nearly impossible. Whenever we found one, activity ground to a halt camp-wide as everyone took the opportunity to suggest a solution. Some favored smashing through the lid with sledgehammers, though our superiors frowned on that. If a convenient tree was nearby, we could rig up a pulley and all work together to haul it out. Otherwise, it fell to the strong-men like Mobera to get a pry bar into the side and force the lid off. Given that it was in the middle of an open field with no trees, this one looked like it would require the third option.
Mobera, not one to complain (or at least knowing I’d call him on his BS if he did) grabbed a crowbar and jumped in immediately, trying to dig around the side of the coffin lid to find an edge where the tool would fit. The rest of us took the opportunity to stop for a break, relocating to the small bit of shade being cast by our cart. We passed around a waterskin, making sure the trio of cadets standing around the grave saw us doing it (and earning a few hateful glares in the process.) I had just taken a long pull from the neck and passed it off when I saw the flicker of movement again. I froze, my arm partially outstretched towards Heffron, as I saw a shimmer move stealthily from behind one granite tombstone to another about 50 yards away from me. It was creeping towards Mobera and the others.
“Hand it over, ye bastard. The hell’s your problem?” Heffron asked, snatching the partially-proffered waterskin away in irritation. “Ye look like yer passin’ a kidney stone!”
I raised a finger to shush her, which of course just led to a longer string of angry Irish brogue being sent my direction. I turned, fumbling inside the cart for the double-barreled rifle I knew was stored there, when I heard Mobera shout in triumph from inside the grave. He’d apparently gotten the lid loose. His triumphant shout was followed immediately by a scream that ended in a wet, choking gurgle. Those of us near the cart whirled in place, watching as a nearly eight-foot tall skeleton wrapped in the dry, desiccated remains of what had once been its skin forced its way from the bottom of the grave. Its right hand and the wicked black talons it ended in had impaled Mobera through the chest, lifting his two hundred pound frame into the air as easily as a mother lifting a babe. We could see the long, curled horns sprouting from its head and the torn, rotten remains of a pair of bat-like wings sprouting from its back and knew immediately what this thing had once been: a Nephilim.
Many of the natives in Malifaux can pass as humans in the dark or from a distance if you don’t look too closely. Of course, if you do get close enough to spot their nearly translucent skin or the black, spidery veins that web beneath the surface, it’s probably too late already. Others, however, take on forms from our nightmares. The Nephilim fell into the latter category. From birth they resemble demonic cherubs with black horns, claws, and cloven hooves emerging from their violet skin. They grow rapidly, sprouting wings that make them uncannily resemble a devil from one of the more graphic literary versions of hell. The largest stand nearly nine feet tall and can smash through the side of a brick building if they take a mind to it. And, much to our surprise, someone seemed to have crammed the massive frame of one of these creatures into this marble coffin at some point in the city’s distant past.
For a second, as the behemoth rose to its full height and tossed the now limp form of Mobera onto the ground next to the grave, we froze. It was only an instant, but it was long enough to let the creature haul itself over the side of the grave, moving with a speed that would have seemed impossible even when the thing was alive. A moment later it unfurled to its full size and charged another pair of cadets, slashing them to ribbons with its talons. As I pulled the rifle to my shoulder and fired a shot into the beast’s rotten shoulder, I could already see it was too late for the pair on the ground. One was trying to hold his guts inside his eviscerated torso while the other was lying senseless near the bloody remains of his severed arm.
The shot only served to get the creature’s attention. It turned towards me, dropping into a crouch and releasing a long, raspy breath that I would later realize was its attempt to bellow a challenge through the decayed remains of its vocal chords. I knew I had a chance to end this before any more harm was done. I sighted the beast’s head down the length of the rifle barrel, timing the shot so I pulled the second trigger between breaths as I’d been trained. At that range I couldn’t have missed, but the shot was fouled as something impacted me from behind, hitting me in the shoulder and sending sharp pain shooting through my back. The rifle jerked up and the second barrel discharged uselessly over the creature’s head. I feared at that moment that I had killed us all.
               With another raspy bellow, the ancient Nephilim charged. I dropped to a knee and rolled beneath the swipe of its talon as it smashed into the side of the corpse cart, reducing it to kindling. I turned, expecting to see the heads we’d collected rolling randomly across the pavement. Instead, I found a cloud of half a dozen of the nearly decayed skulls hovering in the air over the shattered remains of the vehicle and the thrashing, violent Nephilim skeleton.  The other Marshals and I watched with stunned fascination as they twisted and spun in place, shaking like dogs trying to get dry, and cast off the burlap shrouds we’d wrapped around them. It dawned on me then what must have struck me from behind. With my stomach churning, I twisted against the turf, trying to dislodge one of the heads that had latched on and was gnawing its way into the meat of my shoulder. A part of me reeled in horror, but shock helped shove that part into a corner until the present crisis was resolved. There would be time for horror later.
I rolled, using the ground as a wedge to dislodge the damned thing’s jaws from my back, and turned to see something that looked like a human’s rotted skull chattering its yellowed teeth at me from the ground. It started to rise up, hovering with magical force towards my eyes, but I brought the stock of the rifle around and smashed it into the thing’s temple. The viscous black remains of its brains spilled onto the hard-packed dirt, rendering the rest of the head inert.
I came up to a knee, watching as my fellow cadets tried to ward off the flying skulls. Heffron was closest to me, trying to extract one with a lengthened snout and sharpened, canine teeth from her thick, curly mane of hair. Her instructor had given her trouble about that hair since the first days of training, but she’d stubbornly insisted on keeping it, pointing out that Lady Justice had famously long red hair that trailed almost to her ankles. We’d pointed out that she was also a supernaturally skilled swordswoman, as opposed to a cadet who had barely fired a gun before these first few months of training, but she’d kept it anyways. As I charged forward, swinging the rifle like a club and sending the lupine abomination flying towards the smashed remains of the corpse wagon, I guessed she’d have it cropped down almost to her skull tomorrow. Assuming she survived, of course.
               “What the hell is doing all this?” she said, a slight hint of panic creeping through despite her efforts to regain her composure. I had my suspicions, but there was no time to relay them to her.
               “The ammo box,” I growled, scanning frantically for the extra rifle ammunition. Across the clearing, I watched another cadet fly bodily through the air after the skeletal Nephilim had picked him up and hurled him effortlessly. “The reloads! Where’d they land!”
               “There! By the wheel!” she shouted a moment later. I saw in an instant that the box of shells had tipped over on its side, spilling the contents across the ground. I mentally thanked whoever might be listening that they had avoided falling into a puddle from the morning rainstorms, as that would surely have ruined the powder. I sprinted forward, crouched at the waist, until I reached one of the red cylinders on the ground. I snapped the breach open on the rifle, draping it over my arm as I jammed the rounds home. A blur of motion appeared on my left and I flinched, preparing to throw the rifle into the way to block the blow I was sure was coming, only to see Heffron had grabbed a spade and was using it to smack one of the heads out of the air. The thing would have bitten through a good portion of my face if she hadn’t, and I nodded my thanks as she turned towards where the thing had landed and jabbed the blade of the shovel through the bridge of its nose.
I turned and started scanning the graveyard for who or what was controlling these creatures. There are few hard and fast rules with necromancy, but I knew whoever was doing this hadn’t had time to animate them properly. That took preparation, usually some kind of ritual, and we had only just dug these bodies out of the ground. This felt like more of a quick-and-dirty job, and I knew exactly how to end that. Unfortunately, I needed to spot the bastard to do it. With a satisfying snap, I closed the rifle’s breach and brought it up to my shoulder, scanning the graveyard from behind the pitiful cover of a wagon wheel propped up on half of its broken axle.  As I searched frantically for any sign of a target, Heffron dropped in behind me.
               “What’re ye doin’, ye daft fool?” she shouted, tugging at my shoulder, “The damned thing’s right over there! Shoot it!”
               I was irritated by the distraction, but there wasn’t time to shove her away. A sudden raspy bellow from my right told me that the Nephilim skeleton had spotted us and was preparing to charge. Heffron gave a final exasperated sigh and stood, readying her shovel like a broadsword. At best it might annoy the thing, but it might buy me another half-second to find…whatever I was looking for. I heard the pound of the thing’s heavy hooves against the ground as it came towards us, and I was preparing to turn and waste one of my shots to try and put it down, when I found my quarry. A shimmer, like a heat mirage, was crouched down behind one of the tombstones. Without stopping to think if maybe my eyes were playing tricks, I fired what could have been the last shot of my life at the image. It exploded with a red spray that turned an incredulous bearded face my direction before slumping to the side, senseless. 
               The flying skulls dropped, clattering against the ground with a horrible sound I’ll hear in my nightmares for the rest of my life. The nephilim creature gave one final, frustrated bellow before falling apart itself, its momentum carrying it all the way to the wagon wheel and sending it rolling. I closed my eyes, as many of the thing’s aged bones broke down all the way to dust from the impact.
“Jaysus, Burns,” Heffron muttered a moment later, breaking the stunned silence. “Ye coulda told me. I nearly soiled myself.” I couldn’t answer, could barely hear her over the sound of the blood pounding in my ears. With shaking hands, I lowered the rifle to the ground as Heffron walked over to the Nephilim’s skull, shattering it with a solid blow from her shovel. “That’s fer me friends, ye great bastard.”
               It was a sentiment I would come to know well.

               Clean-up from the assault took the rest of the afternoon. Heffron (once again properly dressed) had flagged down a carriage and made her way back to the Guild Enclave while the rest of us remained to tend to the wounded. We lost three that day, though it could have been much worse. Mobera actually survived, though the doctors ended up replacing his right arm and some of his insides with steam-powered prosthetics to repair the damage. Within an hour, Heffron returned with a trio of Death Marshalls that included Vinton to search the site for any other signs of what the necromancer had been up to. I stood to join them when they arrived, giving Mobera a comforting pat on his uninjured shoulder. I expected the three senior officers to order me to back off and leave the investigation to them, but Vinton turned and spoke to them quietly as I approached. After a moment he turned my way and gave an encouraging nod, waving me to accompany him.
               “This,” he began, “This was obviously not what I expected when I sent you here. There had been rumors, of course, but every cemetery in the city is supposedly haunted by vengeful spirits or robbed at night by some wannabe Burke and Hare types. Most of it turns out to be nothing.”
               “This wasn’t nothing,” I said, looking down at the dead Resurrectionist.
               “Quite so,” he grimly agreed. I knew it was the closest to an apology I was going to get, and I didn’t push it.
               We hadn’t bothered to move the dead necromancer’s body, other than to check that he was really deceased (namely, by separating his head from his neck) and relieve him of any weapons. It was rare but not unheard of for a Rezzer to have some kind of magical failsafe to bring him back to life sometime after his passing. Other than that, we were content to let him bake in the summer sun. None of us had much desire to stash him somewhere or cover him with a tarp. Truth be told, if a vulture had come down and started pecking at the man, we’d have offered it a swig from our flasks to help wash the meal down.
               He didn’t look like a murderer, I had to admit. Now that he was dead, he looked like a hundred other homeless men I’d passed in the streets. He had a scraggly, oily mop of salt and pepper hair with an unkempt beard to match it. His clothes were roughspun and gray, having spent too many nights sleeping on the ground or in a sewer. He had shoes, which put him ahead of some in his position, but they were falling apart and had obviously been repaired several times. In contrast, I could see from his straight, white teeth that he most likely hadn’t been living this way all his life. At some point in the not too distant past, this man had a normal existence. He’d most likely had a home to go back to at night, people that he cared about. Most do, until the voice starts to whisper to them. It always starts out small, but over time drives them to greater and greater acts of depravity until, finally, everything from their old life is left behind. When we found his hovel an hour or so later, leaning pitifully against the side of the abandoned warehouse, we found an old, yellowing picture of a young woman inside. It was stained with oily handprints from frequent handling. Was it a wife? Girlfriend? Daughter? I never found out, never even learned his name. It didn’t matter. Once they turned, once they started listening to that voice in the back of their heads, their old identity became unimportant, anyways. With any luck, the woman had just woken up one day to find him gone with no explanation. It was far more likely, however, that the voices had driven him to kill her.  
               We knew it was his home from the writing scrabbled on the walls. Most of it was nonsense phrases involving bones. The bones were calling to him. He could hear the song of bone. Soon he’d join their dance. That kind of thing. In the reports we’d file later, this led to us calling him Bone Man. The words were written into the soft, rain rotted wood with whatever he had been able to find. Chalk. A stone. Blood. He was agnostic to his medium. Any doubt whether we were in the right place disappeared when I rooted through the man’s bed roll, waving away the cloud of fleas that sprang into the air as soon as I touched it. There was a book there, an old leather-bound journal with every page covered in the Bone Man’s willowy handwriting. The script on the walls was downright sensible compared to the blasphemies recorded in that tome. I shut my eyes reflexively and slammed the book closed, knowing what this had to be.
               “Sir,” I said, holding the journal towards Vinton as he stood in the doorway. “I’ve found a grimoire.”
               Without a word he crossed the room towards me, taking the book into his own hands and nodding. Grimoires were often books, but they could be anything. The words weren’t really important, so much as the way reading them organized your mind or guided you to a particular mental state. They were a focus, a way for mortal minds to grasp and manipulate the energies of magic without a natural talent. In theory, anyone who spent enough time studying one could learn the spells contained therein, though I certainly didn’t fancy spending any time indulging in the Bone Man’s mad ramblings. Still, Vinton looked at the book with some interest.
               “Well done, Burns,” he said, “This conjurer used a number of effects we’ve never seen before. They’ll be interested in examining this back at the home office. I’d say you’ve more than earned yourself a commendation, today.” His wry smile reminded me that, of course, there are no such commendations in the Marshall service, but I took the rare compliment for what it was.
               “I’ve never heard of one that could do what he could do,” I answered, “Animating that many of them from a distance in that short of a time? And making himself invisible?”
               Vinton nodded. “He was a rare talent, no doubt about it. You and the other cadets are lucky to still be alive. I’ve heard of some powerful necromancers who could pull off some of those things, but not all at once. And I have to confess, the invisibility is a new one on me.” He sighed. “They’re learning all the time, and they seem to be getting stronger.” He shook his head, looking down at the book again. “All the more reason to study this carefully so we’ll be ready next time, eh?”
               I couldn’t muster enough false cheer to answer him, so I stood for a moment in the remains of the madman’s world, swatting idly at the fleas I knew it would take weeks of bathing to get rid of. Finally, Vinton broke the silence. “Well, in any case, time for you to get back to the cemetery and rejoin the others.” I looked at him in confusion as he gave me an innocent look. “The job’s only half done, Burns. You still have the rest of those graves to dig up. Now that you’ve started, you have to finish. A job that’s worth doing is worth doing right, you know.”
               I locked eyes with him for a moment, waiting to see if he was joking, but of course he wasn’t. With a snort of irritation I turned and tromped out the door.
               “You’ll want to hurry,” he shouted after me, “You don’t want to be caught in one of Malifaux’s cemeteries after dark. Bad things can happen!”

               No, Vinton wasn’t the worst of the lot. But he sure as hell wasn’t the best, either.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Malifaux App Early Review

               NaNoWriMo is taking up a lot of my writing time and energy (writing a novel takes a lot of effort. Who knew?) So this is a bit late, and a bit brief. My apologies.


-Obviously, the biggest news of the last week was the launch of the Malifaux app. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check it out yet, you should probably go download it here. I’ll be taking a look at it in more detail below.

-There’s 2 days(ish) left on the Iron Painter. Good luck to everybody who is competing.

-The last several Malifaux Monday Preview articles have been showcasing pursuits coming with the next Through the Breach sourcebook, Above the Law. This book details the Guild and its various iterations. So far, we’ve seen the Marksman, Commander, Magewright, and Bureaucrat. One assumes we’ll see some of the various members of the Special Divisions detailed therein, perhaps akin to the Death Marshall Advanced Pursuit from the Core Rules.


Malifaux App mini-review

               The new app for Malifaux launched this week for Android and iOS. The app allows players to build crews, track their collection, and set-up and run games all from their phone. Furthermore, for only $10, players gain access to the full stat cards of everything in Malifaux, from now to perpetuity. You read that right: you aren’t going to have to pay $5 for every new expansion book that comes out. A one-time payment gives your Google or iTunes account lifetime access to every Malifaux model’s stat cards. That seems like a great freaking deal. I honestly expected it to be much higher and work like so many other fremium apps, with micro-transactions from here to the end of the game’s lifespan every time something new comes along. Plus, this prevents the need for constantly reprinting stat cards from Wargames Vault every time an errata comes out, which is a welcome change for many players, especially those who have to pay to have their new cards to be shipped overseas.
It feels slightly unfair to do a full review of the app at this time, as it’s still early in its release and, with a game as complicated as Malifaux, there are certain to be bugs at launch. The actual release itself was a little shaky as well, as there was an unexplained “region lock” that Wyrd had to scramble to repair that prevented its download in other markets (that should be sorted out now.) The main thing the app has to overcome in many people’s minds is the ease and speed of the Crewfaux app, which has served in this capacity for several years prior to this. The first major difference between the two, besides the inclusion of the stat cards of course, is that the Malifaux app is a lot more resource intensive. I have an older phone, so it takes a couple of seconds to load and switch between screens. Not a huge issue, but it definitely makes using it feel more ponderous than Crewfaux. The trade-off, of course, is having an app that can use images from the game without breaking IP. The Malifaux app is visually very pleasing. It comes with several pre-loaded backgrounds (mine is an interesting piece of art featuring a battle between the Dreamer and Dr. Grimwell. It’s not every day you see someone in a lab coat holding a kid hostage with a syringe.)
So far, crew construction is easy enough to understand, though replacing one set of muscle-memories from the old app to with the gestures for the new one is taking some time (I keep double tapping models to add upgrades to them, which of course deletes them.) Most of the hiccups experienced so far involve oddities of crew construction, as would normally be expected. For whatever reason, I can put Warped Reality on Changelings right now but not Bultungins. That kind of thing is to be expected, and I would expect that they’ll be corrected over time (though expect to have more hiccups from every new book.) And as I said, access to all the stat cards is a huge advantage. It’ll be nice not to have to scroll through a pdf or dig out a book every time I want to look up an interaction. Plus, when I’m testing something new on Vassal I won’t have to drag books around with me.
Of course, the hotly debated topic right now is whether the app can replace bringing cards to games. People go back and forth on this one. Personally, I think I’ll still bring the cards as long as I own them. I don’t like having to flip between pages on my phone while I’m playing the game, especially while mine is having to chug a bit to load everything. That’s one of the main concerns for tournaments, effect on speed of play. The other is the possibility of player misconduct. If your phone is not visible to the other person, there’s nothing stopping you from changing something mid-game to protect yourself other than your own honesty. That’s unacceptable for some people, and inevitably some jerk would get caught cheating in a major tournament if the concern isn’t addressed. It would be technically quite a bit more challenging than what’s currently available, but the only way to really address this would be to have the game records update live between people’s devices. Personally, I don’t mind using it on my own during games to keep track of things, but I can see where some people wouldn’t be alright with it. So, the debate is ongoing.

Overall, I think the app is a great start. It’s visually quite good. $10 for lifetime access to the stat cards is a surprisingly good deal. Most of the crew construction works find, and the kinks can be ironed out over time. I think it’s well worth a download. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Product Review: Nythera


-The November FAQ came out. There aren’t a ton of overwhelming things here, but a few things were clarified. First of all, the so-called “Schrodinger’s Hungering Darkness” question that arises with the Death Contract upgrade, wherein Death Contract could potentially be triggered repeatedly when paired with Rising Sun. Specifically, you Huggy doesn’t die, so it doesn’t trigger Death Contract. Additionally, Trixiebelle can’t redirect attacks from charges or flurries to other models, as she is the only legal target for them, you can’t butterfly jump into melee to block a ranged attack, and moving “up to” a certain difference can choose to move 0”. There are a few others. Go read it yourself. What am I, your secretary?

-The Get Gourd contest winner was Rene Luthje (I don’t know how to put accents and/or oomlots on with my English keyboard, so apologies for their absence.) Here’s a link to the images. Congrats to the winner and those who get carvers. Sadly my strategy of “Run out of time and don’t carve a pumpkin” failed me yet again.

-Round three of iron painter started Monday. The topic this time is Stranger Things. So, good luck to those who are still participating. We’re all counting on you.

-The winner of October’s Malifaux Musings raffle is Moritz Hampel. I’ll be putting your stuff in the mail shortly. Next week I’ll let you know what’s up to be won in November. How does one with this raffle, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked, because the answer is by becoming a Patron on our Patreon page. Just head over to, become a subscriber on any level, and you’re entered into the drawing!

-Finally, I'm writing Shadow and Void to full novel length for NaNoWriMo. Come join me on my page, and maybe throw me some support. Cuz god knows, I'll need it...


Through the Breach-Nythera: Or The Political Ramifications of the Discovery of Neverborn Ruins for the City of Malifaux.

Writing & Design: Mason Crawford
Additional Design: Aaron Darland
Editing: Brandi Edgmon
Art: Harry Fowler, Jorge Gomez, and Bram ‘Boco’ Sels

               Released some time back, this book contains the material published during the worldwide event two years ago. It features the story of Malifaux’s discovery of a second ancient Neverborn ruin, Nythera, and the subsequent scramble by its players to claim it for its own. I played through this during the event itself, but the individual chapters have been collected and pooled together in a Penny Dreadful that is available on DriveThruRpg. Let’s take a look at how it all turned out. Also, if you’re a player, some spoilers may come out here.
The Nythera adventure consists of four acts and does an interesting job of taking characters from relative nobodies up to major players in the city of Malifaux. It literally begins with the misfit band being led to their execution on the Hanging Tree, just prior to their rescue by a pair of Wastrels with one foot in the Guild and the other in the Ten Thunders to do a job for them. The Fated are engaged to track down information on the newly discovered Nythera ruins and the efforts that people are taking to claim it for themselves. Along the way, they’ll have to retrieve Phillip Tombers from the middle of a firefight (literally) between two of Malifaux’s Masters, navigate between your saviors’ two factions as they try to pull you in separate directions, coerce a Brilliance addicted Friekorpsman to escort them into the badlands to Nythera itself, and eventually join a Friekorps assault alongside Von Schill while the winter witch Rasputina rallies her forces against you. In the end, it will come down to them to decide whether to release what is contained within or make sure it stays sealed forever. Either choice has consequences for the future of Malifaux…
The real highlight of this module is the amount of hobnobbing with major figures from the miniature game that occurs. Over the course of this adventure, the characters will come into contact with no less than 8 (and possibly 9) masters. Additionally, they plan a heist with Phillip’s Head (as an aside I, no joke, only got that joke when I played through this the first time,) enter an underground boxing ring, and encounter a wide swathe of the various creatures and nasties from the Badlands. Probably the most dangerous combat encounter comes at the end of Act 3, mostly due to the protracted combat against monsters with Black Blood (passive damage is very harsh in TTB), unless of course the players release [XXX Redacted by Order of the Guild XXX], in which case death is almost certainly assured. The investigation and journey through the wilderness makes up the brunt of the non-combat events. The module also includes stat blocks for 30 opponents in the “People” chapter, which greatly adds to the repertoire of what Fatemasters can bring to their games.
I liked this publication overall, but I have a few quibbles. For the most part, TTB goes to lengths to have the Fated have their own adventures without interacting with some of the more important Fatemaster characters. This serves a dual purpose, both by giving the Fated more agency and to avoid the feeling some players used to get when playing in established settings like the DC Universe or the Forgotten Realms where players know that, if things get too out of hand, Superman or Elminster can always show up to save the day. Additionally, if you keep the cameos down to a minimum, it helps to ensure that it feels special and cool when a character your players recognize pops up in the story. This module runs completely in the other direction. I thought it was fun, but I would understand why some people would feel otherwise. Also, to be honest, the second act of the story drags a little and likely is unnecessary to the overall story, as it mostly involves the players realizing and then confronting the Wastrels’ attempts to kill them at the demands of the Ten Thunders, but the rest are very interesting. Still, overall, I feel the plusses very much outweigh the negatives.
As an extra bonus, the module includes pre-generated characters which new players can use in the story. They’re a diverse group representing members of each of the factions, including an Ortega relative, a cyborg Doctor, and a human who was raised by pigs. One of my favorite parts of the Nythera event, unfortunately, isn’t included here, as the pre-gen characters had their own personal goals to complete every chapter when we were playing it live. Some of these were straightforward enough, but many were rather unorthodox like “make someone call you ‘Arizona’ during the game’ or ‘Squeal like a pig at someone until they demand that you speak English.’” Unfortunately, players will need to do a bit of adjustment to correct them for M2E, but they’re a good starting point.

So, in summation, I recommend this module for most Fatemasters. If you want your characters to go through the Malifaux equivalent of starting at the bottom and pulling themselves up through its tangled web of intrigues. It makes for a great self-contained story, and I honestly recommend cutting the campaign off after finishing the last Act and moving on to new Fated and a new storyline. So, check it out! 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dia de los Malifauxs

When I was putting together my monthly rotation of post subjects, it seemed natural to throw in a regular hobby article. After all, getting models painted up and looking sharp is a part of this game that doesn't always get the credit it deserves. Plus, one of the few advantages the blog has over the numerous Malifaux podcasts is that this is a visual medium. I can put pretty pictures on here! And if it really took off, maybe it would even kick me in the butt and get me to start working on my stuff. 

Of course, then I remembered I have a family, a job, and lots of other things that take away my hobby time.

So I was in a bind. Do I need to alter the schedule? Drop the hobby post? I didn't want to, because it was a good idea regardless of my lack of painting time. And then this last week an idea occurred to me: I could use the blog to highlight some of the cool Malifaux models that other hobbyists have done! I see them all the time on A Wyrd Place, Twitter, and of course the painting forums on the Malifaux site. Why don't I email people and see if they want to show their work off? 

So this is my first efforts in that direction. For the probably 0 of you paying attention, I've decided to strip and repaint my Collodi crew. The puppet master and his marionnettes have had their old, bad paint jobs knocked off and are now waiting with several other models to get primed and painted. Also, I found an attachment for my dremel to use ultra-fine drill bits, so I pinned and touched up my Arcane Effigy. He looks like this: 

I know, still needs work. Anyways, let's look at some pretty stuff, beginning with our featured artist, Haydn Dean, and his Dia de los Muertos Ortega crew. 

From the first time I saw pictures of this crew, I was in love. It combines all of the best features of this hobby: a cool and creative theme, significant conversions/greenstuff sculpting, and a beautiful paint job. Plus it brings some attention to a holiday that is huge in the latin american community but is maybe just starting to reach the mainstream attention it deserves, the festival of the dead. All of the models from Perdita's boxed set are featured here, along with a converted Abuela Ortega and an Executioner. I'll just put the models up and let them speak for themselves. 

Pretty cool stuff, eh? If you want to see more of Haydn's work, check out his website at or follow him on Instagram at @haychdee. He's making a pretty savage looking Marcus crew right now that emphasizes the more bestial, horrific side of the Arcanist master, but here's hoping we see some Domadores added to the Ortega crew at some point in the future. 

Meanwhile, here are a handful of other models/dioramas that caught my eye this week. The first is a diorama by Paul Buntman from the Iron Painter rd. 2 voting, which is full of cool stuff and can be checked out here. 

Next is one of the most Halloween appropriate models I've ever seen, a Carver with some corn stalks from railroad hobby sets by Cade Zenner. 

With The Walking Dead starting back up last Sunday, it only seems right to include a TWD themed version of Asura Rotten by Bakti Victor. 

And, finally, I'm sure I'm not the only one eager to see a painted up version of Hungering Darkness's new alternate model. Well Brian Schlottman provided one! 

If you have work you'd like to see featured in future hobby articles, please feel free to drop us a line. We have a Malifaux Musings facebook page and twitter account (@MalifauxMusings) where you can contact us. Also, if you liked this post or any of our other content, consider pledging $1 a month to tohelp us grow and expand. Thanks to our new Patreon supporters, Craig Bishell and Moritz Hampel, who are entered into the drawing for this month's raffle. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Halloween Fluff Week!

We’ve got a little bit of a potpourri post today (I have a feeling the fluff/story posts are going to be like this in the future.) We’ll run through some quick Mini-Musings, take a look at a Dreamer Trick-or-Treating crew I’ve been testing in honor of the holiday, and end with an excerpt from a longer piece of Malifaux fiction I’m working on at the moment, Shadows and Void, themed around the origin of a Death Marshall. I’m planning on turning this into a novel for NaNoWriMo in November, because I’m a masochist and I enjoy hurting myself. So look forward to hearing more about this in the future.

-The PDF of Broken Promises is available on DriveThruRPG. So…go get it? Assuming you don’t have it already. I mean, come on. You’re reading this blog. You’ve probably got it already.

-The Homefront campaign has entered Block 2. The Sandmen score 2 Strategy Points. The Order of the Chimera scores 1 Strategy Point. The Council pulls up the rear with no points. For Factions, the Gremlins receive 2 Scheme Points. The Ten Thunders, the Resurrectionists, and the Guild all receive 1 Scheme Point. The remaining Factions score 0 Scheme Points. One assumes that the Neverborn’s votes were cancelled out by the Sandmen winning, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m actually a little sad the Council isn’t doing better, as I like the story behind what they are. Hopefully Council stuff finds its way into the game at some point in the future.

-A new issue of Wyrd Chronicles has been released, with some good stuff in it. Rathnard put in an article for starting Guild on a budget, which I think will interest a lot of folks. There’s a Tactics article submitted by your humble bloggist discussing four masters who Broke Promises in the most recent book and the power increases they’ve received in exchange. And there’s a fun Through the Breach scenario where your Fated take some kids for Trick-or-Treating in Malifaux. Hint: It doesn’t turn out well. Additionally, they announced that Lady Justice won the story event based off of Gencon sales. So, eat it Rezzers. I guess. We’ll get some fluff for what happened later.

-Wyrd has announced the Get Gourd pumpkin carving contest. Carve a pumpkin with some sort of Wyrd theme. Post the picture. They’ll draw five random folks to get a Carver miniature, and they’ll vote internally on a winner to receive a Through the Breach Hannah. None of you reading this should enter, so I can win. Seriously, don’t follow this link. Don’t post pictures. I want 5 carvers and a Hannah.

-Once again, I’d like to thank our Patreon supporters, Richard Nave, CobaltUnicorn, Kevin Tapper, John Spencer, and our newest patron Moritz Hampel. We’re halfway to our next goal, unlocking a Malifaux Musings Twitch channel for streaming games played over Vassal. And remember, if you’re signed up as a patron for even $1, you get an entry in our monthly raffle to win some kind of cool Malifaux limited models. This month’s raffle is an older Miss model from Gencon, Miss Terious, an alt Ortega themed Death Marshal. Additionally, I’ll be throwing in a Halloween surprise, some miniature Jack-o-Lanterns to be used on the bases of your models. And I mean, come on, it’s a $1. You’ve got a dollar, right? Just follow the link, throw us some shekels, and let’s see what we can build this thing into.


Dreamer Goes Trick or Treating

               So I mentioned above the Tactics article I wrote for this month’s Wyrd Chronicles, and one of the issues I ran into with my plan was this: I was going to write about the Dreamer (or, more properly, his patron Nytemare) and how he had screwed over Lillith in the Neverborn story from Book 5. The idea was that I would then talk about the upgrades and models from the book that boosted their power level, ostensibly as a reward for breaking their promises. Here was the thing: it’s obvious what Dreamer got in Book 5. Growing up and Sleep Cycles lets you play him as a melee master that swaps back and forth between the little Clockwork Orange wannabe and LCB. But when it came to models, there wasn’t a ton that jumped out and screamed “this is specifically of use for Dreamer.” Serena Bowman was there, of course, and she has some synergies with him, but I was a little lost on what exactly she was supposed to do. Give models Nightmare and Black Blood? Ok…why wouldn’t you just have Lelu and Lillitu? But then I heard the Arcane Reservoir podcast episode discussing the Neverborn and, specifically, heard them gush about how solid the Bultungins seem to be for their cost. This tends to be a bit of a blindspot for me: I can see the super awesome high-costed models and can picture their role, but I miss at times how effective low-cost stuff can be. And then it hit me: Bultungins get a free (2) ap attack when they get pushed into melee range by another model’s actions. What crew has a lot of those? Well, Dreamer has Empty Night and Daydreams have Lead Nightmares, but Bultungins aren’t that...except when you have Serena, and she gives them an upgrade so they count as one. And thus, this crew list was born.

50 SS Neverborn Crew
Dreamer + 4 Pool
- Growing Up (1)
- Sleep Cycles (2)
- On Wings Of Darkness (1)

Daydream (2)
Daydream (2)
Lilitu (7)
- On Dreaming Wings (2)
Serena Bowman (7)
Doppleganger (7)
Bultungin (5)
-Warped Reality (1)
Bultungin (5)
-Warped Reality (1)
Bultungin (5)

So the main theory here is to use the numerous pushes, pulls, lures, etc. that are available in the base crew to lead the Bultungins (little kids) around the neighborhood so they can trick people (smash them with big axes.) I wanted to test Growing Up, so I included it even though the summoning upgrade is probably better. It makes sense with the theme as well, as we know that Dreamer has developed a fondness for going around and smashing pumpkins with his new cricket bat. From the Shadows on the Bultungins can be used to get them up into an early strike/surprise position, but I don’t know that it’s really necessary. Plus, the benefit of leaving them close by is that you can target them with Serena’s “The Things I’ve Seen…” and give them Black Blood (while hopefully also triggering to put Black Blood on other stuff, like the Dreamer himself.) That would be your Treats that your crew is handing out to the other whenever they get hit.
I played this with Jon’s Parker crew on Vassal a few nights ago using a version of Gaining Grounds 2018…from several weeks ago. We set the game up then, and only just finished it Tuesday, so of course many of the schemes had changed (and one no longer existed.) So I’ll not belabor the details of the game (and this is certainly not because I lost. You’d be a fool to think so.) I was kind of surprised in game which parts of the crew worked and which parts didn’t. Fortunate draws let me hit Serena’s trigger so that, by the time combat started in earnest, I had made two of the Bultungins, the Dreamer, and the Doppleganger have Black Blood. This let her serve as a reasonably effective force multiplier later on in the game. Also, using the Daydreams and Dreamers’ pushes to throw the Bultungins into combat worked surprisingly well. What I needed to do was A) Equip the Dreamer upgrade to give him accomplice and B) Remember to use Accomplice when possible (IE with the Daydreams.) At one point I left a Freikorps Librarian on 2 wounds from a Savage Mauling attack but forgot to Accomplice and finish him, and that Librarian’s heals would plague me the rest of the way. Even better, Dreamer’s Empty Night lets you push, attack, then triggers the Savage Mauling as well! That’s pretty spicy! On the other hand, Dreamer’s LCB shenanigans really didn’t end up doing what I wanted at all. I’m not that experienced with him, so in my head I thought I’d be floating up to Waking +4 and popping out the big guy every turn or something. I only really could do it 2 out of the five turns, and he didn’t do as much damage as I was hoping when he was out there. On the other hand, the cricket bat+summoning+ranged attack+Empty Night made for a pretty versatile, solid all-around master, which I also didn’t expect.
               There are a few changes I’ll probably try out with this crew.  Obviously, working in the Accomplice upgrade will be important. I think the Summoning version of Dreamer may almost be better at this after all, as Dreamer was kind of stuck between wanting to support his crew and wanting to get stuck in every turn. I think a more focused crew could actually be pretty solid.


As stated above, this is an excerpt from a story I’m writing about the recruitment, training, and eventual early missions of a Death Marshall named Burns from the early days of the second Breach. I hope you enjoy. As a reminder, one of the perks of being a $5 or higher patron on Patreon is access to early drafts of my fiction as I’m working on them.

 “I want you to join the Death Marshalls.”
Sometimes, I wonder if my answer would have changed if I could see the hell hiding behind those words. The Death Marshalls. It sounds ridiculous when you say the name out loud, like something from one of those cheap adventure novels they sell in the shops. I have a hard time imagining Lady Justice or the Judge ever saying it, let alone thinking it up in the first place. I would come to find out soon enough, however, that the ridiculous name fit exactly with the mission to which I would soon dedicate my life. Death Marshall. A law enforcement officer for the dead. Only a hole of a city like Malifaux could need something like that.
Of course, at the time the name meant nothing to me. The grim faced coffin-slingers with which the average Malifaux citizen is today familiar had yet to make their appearance in the streets in those early days. Most of them were like Vinton, a man in a relatively fine looking duster with a shiny new gun and a shinier, newer badge pinned to his chest. I almost laughed in his face, but reminded myself that this was my only ticket out of this cell. I tried to play it coy, but we both knew my answer before I ever gave it. All it took was a nod of ascent, a word from Vinton to the Guardsman posted at the end of the hall, and I was out and freed. There wasn’t even any paperwork to sign, and for the Guild that is really saying something. 
What happened after that? Sometimes I’m not sure I remember it rightly. Other times it’s all I can do to drive the memories out of my head. Imagine the worst physical exertion you’ve ever experienced, coinciding with mental stress designed to push you to your limits before shoving you so far past them you forget they were ever there in the first place. It was Hell, if Hell gave you the option to quit at any time, so long as you were alright with being executed. 
We drilled our bodies to the point that they were an interconnected series of scar tissue and hard, lean, whipcord muscle. We drilled our senses until we could spot the tiniest signs of necromantic magic, even while being shot at. And our minds...well a Death Marshall’s mind has to be a fortress, since the gift of necromantic magic also tends to come with an ability to warp people’s perceptions or fill them with terror beyond the mortal ken. We were subjected to constant mental assault, often when we were in the middle of some other exercise, and never with warning. Some of the magics they used on us would earn an average citizen a bullet just for talking about them. It was constant. It was unrelenting. It was torture dressed up as education.
Many who went into the academy sane came out broken and cold, and those were the Marshalls who graduated. In our first weeks, our instructors encouraged us not to fraternize with our fellow recruits. I didn’t understand why, thought it was just some BS to keep us focused on our training. A young woman named Winters hit it off with me after the first day when she deflected my fumbling attempt at a wristlock and left me on my back with a knot the size of a potato growing from my forehead. She was a no-nonsense, balls to the wall soldier, one of the toughest people I’ve ever known. I watched her reset her own dislocated shoulder in the middle of a hand-to-hand combat drill and then go on to win the damned thing. She was one of the early guardsmen, first through the Breach when it reopened and, unlike many of her peers, actually still cared about keeping the people of the city safe. She should have been exactly what the recruiters were looking for, but they could see something I missed.
She cared TOO much. It turned out she had been pregnant once, years prior. It was going to be a daughter if she hadn’t been stillborn. It was the sort of entirely mundane trauma that makes up the background of most people, but Death Marshalls can’t be most people. Our instructors filled our minds with images of failure: innocents murdered, children stolen, friends and family members lost as a result of our actions. It went on for months, and the rest of us didn’t see it eating away at her until it was too late. One morning they played reveille and she didn’t leave her bunk. The instructors went into the dorms to find her clinging to her mattress, a picture of some little girl she’d found and decided was hers clutched in one clawed hand. She had convinced herself that it was her fault these phantoms in her mind kept dying, and unless she hid herself away it would keep happening. She thought she had even gotten her daughter killed, though how she could have come to that conclusion I’ll never understand. As we stood in the drillfield listening to her howling shrieks, we knew it was too late for her before the instructors hauled her bodily out the door, two men dragging her by the arms. We didn’t even resent them for it when they took her behind the barracks and we heard the pistol shot.
Frankly, it was the least they could do.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Misery and Woe: A Pandora Tactica

It’s the strategy article this week, and it’s going to be an extra-long one. Why? Because you asked for it! Or, specifically, because one of our patrons asked for it. Patreon user CobalttheUnicorn requested an in-depth tactica for Pandora, so that’s what we’re going to do. Hopefully your recovery is going well, Cobalt. We at Malifaux Musings wish you the best, and let’s get on with the misery!


The Mistress of Sorrow, Pandora carries a mysterious puzzle-box which contains one of Malifaux’s Tyrants, Despair, who grants her power while slowly corrupting her mind. She can use it to release some of her minions, spirits called Sorrows that inflect negative emotions on those around them. Her own powers amplify this, prying the insecurities, fears, and mental derangement from the depths of an enemy’s mind and using it to drive them mad. In 1st edition Malifaux, Pandora was probably the poster child for “This is why everyone hates Neverborn,” as she could chain together unlimited strings of her Incite action, giving her nearly unlimited movement on any given turn, and would take advantage of the way Terrifying used to work to essentially sweep enemy models off the board without letting them react in any meaningful way. It’s somewhat fitting that a master like Pandora would be a negative play experience, using her Misery ability on opponents, but a slightly reduced version was necessary in M2E to improve game balance.
There are a number of short stories featuring Pandora in the Malifaux canon, too many to mention here. One of my favorites is The Malifaux Orphanage for Sick Children from Storm of Shadows, which describes Iggy’s transformation from a normal (albeit troubled) young boy to become a Woe like Candy and Kade. She’s conspicuously absent from the action in Book 5, which may tell more about her allegiance in the Neverborn Civil War than is immediately apparent.

Base Abilities

Outside of her Willpower of 7, Pandora sports one of the least impressive stat lines of any master in Malifaux. Df of 3 is just pitiful. 10 Wounds is average (possibly slightly below, as Wd totals on Masters have started to bloat as the game’s gotten older). Wk and Cg 4 is pretty sad, too. But, as is often the case with the Neverborn, it’s what’s below the surface that counts.
Her abilities are what really define her playstyle. Misery creates a 6” aura around her where, any time an enemy model fails a WP duel, they then take 1 point of damage. This “death-by-a-thousand-cuts” ability is significant because it counts as a separate damage source than the action that initially triggered the WP duel and, as such, the damage isn’t reduced by Armor (as Armor can’t reduce damage below 1) and gets around Hard to Kill (as the initial action’s resolution would do the damage to put the enemy model on 1 Wd, and then Misery finishes them off.) This becomes more significant when you add in other models with overlapping Misery bubbles, as we’ll mention later, but it can add up more quickly than you would think. Because of Misery’s limited range, many Pandora builds revolve around bringing enemies within short to medium range to maximize the number of failed WP duels over the course of the game.
Her next two abilities work hand in hand in many cases. Expose Fears allows Pandora to resist with her WP instead of her DF in any opposed duel. Thus, her sad DF of 3 is much less significant, as any attacks your opponent throws your way will let you use the better stat. However, any Simple Duel will still require the use of DF, so watch out for those in the enemy crew. Additionally, she considers the duel to be a WP and, thus, succeeding at resisting an attack triggers the next ability: Fading Memory. Whenever she wins an opposed WP duel against an enemy model, Pandora immediately pushes up to 4” in any direction. So, if an enemy charges her and misses the first attack, you can push out of basically any model’s engagement range to prevent the rest of the attacks. If she’s getting shot, she can use the ability to get out of LoS or at least behind some cover for any subsequent attacks. Basically, if an opponent is going to come at the Queen, they’d best not miss. Her final ability is Martyr, and it doesn’t come up quite as often. It lets her pull a point of damage onto herself if it would affect a friendly Woe within her 6” bubble. She isn’t exactly overflowing with excess wounds and her crews typically don’t feature an excess of healing, but this can end up being a lifesaver for weaker Woes like her Sorrows.
All of these abilities combine to create a master who is very interested in getting to medium-short range, pulling as many enemies as possible within her sphere of influence, and inflicting Misery upon them (literally and figuratively.) Expose Fears and Fading Memory make her hard to hit, but brittle. Thankfully FM isn’t a trigger, so it can’t be negated by abilities like the Executioner’s Certain Death ability, but if an opponent can hit her she’s going to snap and break quickly.
Pandora’s two main Attack Actions are Self Loathing and Self Harm, both of which cause a target that fails a WP duel to inflict the damage of a melee or shooting attack on themselves after they fail (plus one additional point for Misery.) Self Loathing is slightly better with a Ca of 7 as opposed to Self Harm’s 6, which is of course off-set by the latter’s longer range. On the base card you’re stuck with the damage track of the target’s attacks but, with an upgrade, you can at least ensure that you have a 2/3/4 available in-case theirs is worse. Her (0) action Incite is one of her main mobility tricks, as it is an opposed Wp duel and succeeding at it counts for Fading Memory to give her an upfield push. Additionally, it places the condition Mood Swing on the opponent, allowing you to select that model to activate whenever it is able to do so, in place of the model your opponent chooses to activate. Being able to dictate your opponent’s activation order to them is very powerful, and can allow you to get away with leaving the Doppleganger at home from time to time, as forcing a sub-optimal model to activate first will often be even better than being able to cheat to go first. If you can flip a Tome for the Mass Hysteria trigger, you can immediately take the action again, giving you more mobility. Finally, she has a (1) Tactical Action called Inflict which forces all enemy models in a 4” pulse to succeed on a TN 14 WP duel or suffer 1 damage (plus 1 for Misery.) This one isn't utilized as frequently, but can be put to good use against clumps of low WP models to, at least, drain some cards from their hands.


               The second defining factor in Pandora’s playstyle comes from her choice of Limited upgrade. She will almost always bring one of them, and will more often than not fill all three of her upgrade slots. I’ll go through three common Pandora load-outs and describe how they’re typically built and played.
               The first Limited option is The Box Opens. This upgrade lends Pandora towards what has been described by many as her “melee build,” which focuses on taking her Misery aura and adding on more and more things to make it a bubble of bad for the opponent. TBO gives her Terrifying all 13 which, given that her melee range is a respectable 3”, lets her tie up a number of models in it at once. Often this upgrade is paired with the generic Neverborn upgrade Fears Given Form which forces any model that activates inside the bearer’s engagement range to take a TN  14 DF duel or take 3 damage immediately. You do have to be careful with this one, though, as friendly models have to take the same test, so Pandora will often be running around on her own when this upgrade is equipped. You may want to pair it with something like Aether Connection to give her some added damage prevention to offset the isolation, though this may fall under the category of “a good idea for newer players, but not necessary for the more experienced.” Often, you’ll find models working to fan out and stay out of her bubble, only feeding her non-essential models or those that are able to stand up to her punishment while the rest of the crew scores VPs, so pairing it up with something like Nekima or another heavy beater to support where she can’t go is typically a good idea.
               The next, and probably most hated, option is the Voices build, or Paralyze-Dora. Most of the M2E “negative play experience” commentary from Dora comes out of this build (for more on this subject, see the April 1st episode of the High Fauxdelity podcast.) The upgrade gives her the relatively innocuous ability “There is no shelter here” that makes the damage from Misery irreducible. That’s not such a big deal. However, it also adds a crow trigger to Self Harm and Self Loathing that reduces the damage to 0 and applies the Parlayzed condition to the target instead. In order to make this trigger more reliable, you also include the Depression upgrade, which gives her a (0) action to discard a card and add the suit to all of her duels for the remainder of her activation. Thus, for a low crow, you can now paralyze 3 models a turn. Players will often pair this with Fugue State, punishing models that take Interact actions within 8” of her by forcing them to succeed at a hefty TN 15 WP duel or take a point of damage (plus one from Misery, if they’re within 6”.) This is probably the safest of the builds for her, as Paralyzed models are incapable of hitting you back, but it can be vulnerable to crews with efficient condition removal like Ten Thunders Low River Monks and Sensei Yu or, if you’re unlucky, a turn where you fail multiple duels and only get a small portion of the enemy crew locked down. It is not, however, a great way to win friends among your play group. Most folks that bring their little plastic toys want to actually play with them, not activate and pass because you keep beating them at WP duels. Definitely not a friendly thing to do to someone who is just learning the game.
               The new Limited Upgrade Pandora got from Broken Promises, Woe is Me, lets her act as a summoning master. Because we Dora players weren’t hated enough already, apparently. Ok, it’s not that bad of a summon, as it “only” lets you call in Sorrows. Moreover, it can only be done by placing the Sorrow next to an enemy model with one or more conditions, and the enemy can subsequently choose to end any of those conditions they wish. On the plus side, this upgrade gets around two of the weaknesses of the Sorrow, their slightly-too-high soulstone cost and their limited mobility. Now you can just drop the nasty little blighters in the middle of the action where you want them and call it a day. Moreover, unlike most summoners, Dora’s Sorrows come in at full health, which is not insignificant. Base contact with an enemy is where a Sorrow wants to be, as they can then pull a Wd off of that enemy model when they activate with Life Leech. And, of course, there’s the fact that Sorrows bring their own Misery aura which stacks with Pandora’s, turning those little 1 damage slaps-to-the-wrist into 2, 3, or 4 damage wallops every time the enemy fails against Incite. This is even more significant when you consider the other ability from Woe is Me, Growing Woe. Any time an enemy is killed by the Misery Aura while the upgrade is in play you can summon her totem, the Poltergeist, for free. Any time you can swing 4 AP like that, it’s a good thing, and the Poltergeist is an underrated totem that didn’t see a ton of play due to the relative ease with which it can be killed and it’s relatively high cost (who ever heard of a 5SS totem, anyways?) You’ll probably want to bring Depression with this build as well, as the summons require an additional Mask. Moreover, it gives other friendly Woes within Pandora’s LoS (read: the Sorrows you just summoned) an attack targeting WP (meaning it triggers Misery) that can force a model that fails to activate last. Good stuff. It’s still pretty early in the Broken Promises era to come to any conclusions, but the limited testing I’ve done with this so far leads me to believe I may have initially underestimated Woe is Me. There are a lot of conditions in Malifaux. I mean, a WHOLE LOT of them. this upgrade doesn’t distinguish between positive and negative conditions, either. An opponent who spends an AP to give a model Defensive or Focus has now provided you with a summoning battery. It’s possible my experience with this isn’t typical (Phiasco typically plays 10 Thunders and they’re notorious for throwing Focus around like it’s candy,) but I've had no trouble having good targets with positive conditions they don't want to remove availabe. Two of the new strategies from Gaining Grounds 2017 place beneficial conditions on models that can’t be removed by actions, even if the model WANTS to remove them. And you can always use your Incite or condition applying actions to put them out yourself in a pinch. Iggy would be pretty clutch for this (more on him later.) And we already know how potent an effect summoning can have on the game. So, to be determined, but there may be some real meat to be found in this version of Dora. Time will tell if it’s good enough to replace Voices as the go-to Limited.
               In addition to these, she has a handful of other upgrades as well. Cry for Me gives her a (1) Ca 7 attack to hand out a condition imposing a negative flip to WP duels on enemy models that fail until the end of the turn, with a double Mask trigger to place a blast marker and spread it around. This used to see a little bit of play, particularly if you thought you were going to go up against something that had a decent chance of resisting your attacks, but as more upgrades are added to the game and slots get tight I’ve seen it fall out of favor. Her other new Book 5 upgrade, Rile Them Up, has a few more interesting possibilities. It costs 2 stones, which is a little hefty, but it gives her the ability Mania to discard a card and take the Incite action an additional time using one of her general AP. I could see this being useful for games where mobility will be at a priority or, if you’re feeling feisty, where you’re going to try for a late-game Undercover Entourage run for the opponent’s deployment zone. It also adds a Mask trigger (so, built in) to Self-Harm and Loathing that lets you replace the attack’s normal damage track with 2/3/4 and makes the damage irreducible. Potentially, this could be useful for any of the Limited builds, though the most obvious synergy goes with Melee-Dora (who could have some odd hiccups killing models that don’t have good attacks for her to steal) and Woe is Me (who can use the additional Incite either to throw out some more conditions for summoning or because she had to use her (0) for Depression to gain masks.) This one may end up being scheme pool dependent, where you bring it for the aforementioned Entourage run or to give her a better shot at Master killing in Neutralize the Leadership. Still, it’s got some decent utility.

Support Models        


               Obviously, anything with Woe under its characteristics has potential to be added to her crew and used effectively. Her box set is one of the few that you can pretty much open, assemble, and run and have a relatively effective crew. Candy finds her way into a lot of Pandora crews to this day, mostly because of the potency of combining the Mood Swings condition from Incite with her Sweets ability to paralyze an enemy model. Kade falls in and out of favor, mostly due to his fragility. If you bring him and he can get a couple of his damage buffs running, his Carving Knife can dish out a horrific 5/6/8 damage track. If you can afford it, equip him with Depression instead of Dora to let him pitch a crow and make one of his triggers built in. Also, if you’re bringing Kade, bring Teddy. You wouldn’t make a sweet little baby go out without his Teddy, would you? What kind of a monster are you?

               Oh, right, the kind that plays Pandora. Never mind. Forget I asked.

               We already talked about Sorrows a bunch above, so let’s move on to other stuff to hire in. First of all, it’s the Neverborn, so I’ll just point at Nekima, the Doppleganger, and the Primordial Magic and assume you already know why you might want to bring those. Moving on.
Besides Candy and Nekima, there are a couple of other henchman options that can play well with Pandora. The Widow Weaver would be an interesting henchman to bring along if you could ensure her safety, as the Web Marker Willpower penalties can be devastating. The problem, of course, is that she can only place them within 6” of her and a stiff breeze will blow her over, taking her Webs with her. She’s not my favorite option, but if you’ve got some amazing defensive tech to keep her alive then by all means, bring her out. Barbaros is a little bit pricey, but I don’t think he gets the praise he deserves. I’ve written about how rude challenge is before, but that WP duel to target anyone but Barb is just disruptive as hell. I think he could be particularly useful in a Woe is Me build to help protect your newly summoned Sorrows. And if they fail the WP duel to target anyone else, their action fails AND they take damage. That’s just rude. Plus there’s something to be said for not entirely focusing your crew on WP attacks, as the wrong opponent will end up laughing at you since WP is, on average, higher throughout Malifaux than Defense. Opposing Nekimas, in particular, will be thrilled with your choice. So Barbaros and other DF targeting models can help broaden your focus a bit and offset some of those bad matchups.
The minion pool is actually a bit more shallow from a Pandora-oriented focus than you might think. Normally one would think Beckoners would be a natural fit, and they can be under the right circumstances, but their 7 stone cost puts them in direct competition with the enforcer Lillitu, and Lillitu’s just better in most cases. Some people don’t care for them due to their relatively low wounds, but I think Insidious Madness makes for a pretty good scheme runner that can change gears and support your offense in a pinch when necessary. If you’re playing Woe is Me Dora you can hire Guild Reporters, who have obvious synergy with Dora. It’s kind of your choice which scheme runner you prefer, and in some cases it may depend on the job you’re asking them to do, but the reporter is a stone cheaper and is better at removing enemy markers than the IM. And performers are solid mercenary hires, as Siren Song and Seduction both play well with what a Pandora crew is trying to accomplish. Not to mention we could all use a bit more "Don't Mind Me" in our lives.  
There’s a lot for Pandora to like in the Enforcer slot, by comparison. I already mentioned Lillitu, who has the Rotten Belle level Lure spell available on a sturdy enforcer’s body. Lure is especially important for melee Dora, as you need to draw models into her bubble so she can be fully effective and they’ll likely be trying to stay as far away as possible. Iggy is a workhorse enforcer that, for a measly 5 stones, gives you another source of Martyr, another (0) Incite, a Rg 12 attack to hand out Burning +2 (hurray for more conditions to use for summoning), and/or a pretty decent WP penalty on enemy models within 6 of him that haven’t activated yet. Having 2 Martyrs gives you a great deal of ability to manipulate wounds, as you can either pull 2 wounds off of a Woe and split them between Pandora and Iggy or chain one single wound down the line (IE if you can afford to put the wound on Pandora but she’s more than 6” away while Iggy is closer but on low wounds, Iggy can snatch a wound off with Martyr and then pass it on to her.) Teddy is a sentimental favorite that would see more play if he was a little faster and a little bit tougher to hit. He’s good for a themed crew and fun to use with Kade. Plus, if you’ve been playing as long as I have, you probably have at least three sculpts of him lying around. And Bishop can be an interesting Merc to hire in, as his melee attacks can target either WP or DF.
The last few books have been kind of a desert for new Pandora crew members, but the Crossroads Seven enforcer Lust is an exception. Nine stones with the merc tax is a little steep, but she brings a pretty solid suite of unpleasant abilities when combined with Pandora. Her “Now, Kiss!” Attack Action can potentially force the enemy to make 3 separate willpower duels in exchange for 1 single AP from Lust, which is some potent Misery activation on top of potentially disrupting the enemy’s plans and positioning. Pair two uses of that with her (0) action which also triggers a WP push, that’s a grand total of 7 potential damage per Misery bubble in which the targets are trapped when doing it. That can get nasty. Book 5 doesn’t have anything specifically for Dora outside of her new upgrades, but there could still be some useful tools here. One of the things you see often with most Pandora builds is a tendency by the opponent to spread out and stay away from her auras. Adding a Grootslang or two to your crew gives you a way to rapidly redeploy to counter this. I envision Pandora and team deploying in the center of the board with the two lair markers deployed in what you think will be high-traffic areas on the flanks, allowing your Groots to deploy rapidly to them and cut off the enemy’s retreat. Bultungins have interesting potential to serve as low-stone beaters and potentially to avoid shoe-horning your crew into being all WP all the time, but they’ll likely have more synergy with other masters like Titania or Collodi who can better exploit their abilities. There are a couple of mercs as well, though none immediately trip my trigger. Soulstone Prospectors have to compete with other 7 stone positioning models, and I don’t think they do well versus Lillitu. Bayou Smugglers are interesting as well, as 6SS is relatively low, can grant you some abilities to manipulate your hand, and their The Swap attack targets WP and either gives you a card or lets you screw with positioning. Don’t know if it’ll be an amazing addition at first blush, but there are possibilities here as a defensive flank holder to grab and position markers to mess up scheme completion.

Harvester of Sorrow: Putting it All Together

Pandora is a tough but brittle master that lives off of projecting auras of sadness and badness to the enemy anywhere near her. There are three main builds defined by which of her Limited Upgrades you bring along, and all of them are effective in their own way. The Melee Pandora wants to get up close and personal and force the opponent to take incidental damage for doing the things that they want to do in an average turn anyways. Voices Pandora is going to try to paralyze models at range, and it actually says on the Voices upgrade card that your opponent’s soul takes a point of damage every time you do this. And the new Woe is Me upgrade lets her summon her small Sorrow minions and, potentially, her Poltergreist totem off of models with conditions on them. Her crew has never historically had a set of “in every Pandora crew include X” type models outside of the standard Neverborn staples of Nekima, Doppleganger, and the Primordial Magic who, in several cases, have alternatives which can even make them dispensable. But it’s really more about building a crew to exploit the area of denial that she creates by her very presence and ensure that you can run down and foil anyone who tries to fan out to escape her wrath. Pandora really isn’t as nasty of a Master as everyone thinks she is (though don’t tell people that. 1) they won’t believe you and 2) it’s more fun to keep the mystique in place) and can be fun to play if you enjoy her style. So give her a try, already!