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Those Who Speak C - Concept Art

Those Who Speak

“You need not words; you convey through your actions, you declare through your devotion”

Those Who Speak C - Concept Art

Sister Lucia held out her hand to Brother Sunil as he clambered down the stone bluff behind her. He was limping heavily from a wound that raked the length of his left shin, preventing him from putting his full weight down on that side. Although he had not complained of the pain or even mentioned it at all, the brothers and sisters known as Those who Speak were acutely aware of each others’ needs. As Sister Lucia provided support on one side, Brother Yusef walked alongside on the right carrying both his own pair of Censers and Brother Sunil’s pair.

The three of them walked in silence for the hour it took to return to their barracks, each ruminating on the victory they had achieved in the name of the Prophet over the faithless blasphemers of the Humanist Rebellion. As they filed through the tall, intricately-decorated doorway with the rest of the returning soldiers, they were directed by the Faithful orderly towards the smaller of the two buildings of worship. A successful battle required a service of celebration but when there were injured to tend to and dead to bury, time was of the essence. The gathered warriors recited their prayers of veneration and gave thanks for their return and the gift of being able to fight another day to defend the honor of the Prophet.

Those Who Speak A - Concept Art

As Brother Sunil departed for the infirmary, Lucia and Yusef made their way to the armoury with their and Sunil’s Censers and began the ritual of repair and cleansing. First they washed the blood of their enemies from their weapons and, in Lucia’s case, from her brass face plate. Then they each took their own set of blessed tools and worked slowly and carefully to flatten any dents and re-sharpen the edges so that the next time they swung the holy weapon into the face of an enemy, it would look as perfect as the day it was forged.

Throughout the many hours of quietly diligent work that the process required they were lit by torchlight and could hear the sounds of the hymns to the Prophet drifting in from the nearby hall of worship. This gave the the armoury an air of sacred ritual and enabled the Faithful to complete their work in a state of near-meditation. After three hours, they were joined by Brother Sunil who continued the work on his own weapon from where his Brothers and Sisters had left off. As the night drew in and they withdrew to their dormitory, they each nodded quietly to each other, in recognition of a good day.

Miniature Myth Busting

As you may know we are currently writing an article series for Beasts of War detailing the steps we’re taking as we approach the launch of the Shattered Earth Kickstarter on February 10th. A comment on our latest entry got me thinking about the ‘black box’ that is miniature production, and the reply I started writing quickly got out of hand, hence this (enormous) blog post.

Firstly, a disclaimer: this in no way constitutes professional advice – it’s just what I’ve learned over the last year or so of trying to do this for a living. Also, the numbers quoted are merely examples and represent the range of prices you might be expected to pay rather than quotes from specific manufacturers. Lastly, Massive Awesome are a UK-based company so all prices are in pounds sterling.

(Note: this is a very long post – you have been warned!)

Art and Design

The best way for me to debunk some of the myths around miniature production is to run through the entire production process with a couple of imaginary miniatures; let’s call them Bob and Kate. Bob is a standard 28mm human soldier whereas Kate is an intricately-detailed 54mm collectors’ piece.

Let’s start with Bob. Bob’s concept art was pretty straightforward to design and cost about £100. The sculpting was done digitally and again was a straightforward job – let’s call it £250. Bob was sent to the printers to have the master produced which cost another £100. Bob is now ready for casting; total investment so far: £450.

Kate on the other hand took some time to get right. Her concept art needed several iterations and ran to £350. The sculpting also took some time to get all the details right, and she’s a complicated miniature, so that ended up costing £1,000. Due to her size and the amount of different pieces required, the 3D print was also a lot more complex and cost £350. Total investment for Kate so far: £1,700.

The Casting Process

There are three main materials that miniatures are cast in: metal (normally tin), resin and plastic (specifically high impact polystyrene, often referred to as HIPS). Some miniature ranges and a lot of boardgames produce their miniatures in a different type of plastic called polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as PVC. I have zero experience casting in this material so I won’t be covering that in this article. If anybody has experience of casting PVC miniatures please share your thoughts in the comments!

Right, let’s talk about metal. Metal is normally spin cast, which means you make a circular mould out of rubber or silicone and spin it at high speed to distribute the metal. You can use a 9″ mould for Bob and you can fit five of him in each mould. Each mould will set you back about £50, and let’s call it £3 for the metal (you pay by weight) and another £3 per spin. Assuming you get 50 casts out of each mould, your cost per miniature for Bob is £1.40 (=(3+3+(50/50))/5). Kate on the other hand needs an 11″ mould (£80) and you’ll only fit three of her in each one. She costs £5 in metal and £5 to spin, so her cost per miniature is £3.87 (=(5+5+(80/50))/3).

Cost Per Miniature (Metal)

Resin production is very similar to metal production, although the miniatures are normally vacuum cast rather than spin cast. Some companies (particularly in the US) still make spin cast resin; it’s often a little cheaper than vacuum cast, but the miniatures are more likely to get air bubbles. Vacuum cast resin miniatures are probably the highest-detail you will achieve, but that detail has an effect on your mould yield. Mould costs per miniature are also more difficult to ascertain as it depends on how each miniature is cut.

For our example we will assume Bob’s mould cost is £35 and Kate’s is £50, and you get 20 pulls from each one. Bob costs £2 in resin, therefore the cost per miniature for Bob is £3.75 (=2+(35/20)). Kate costs £8 in resin, so her cost per miniature is £10.50 (=8+(50/20)).

Cost Per Miniature (Resin)

Lastly we’ll look at plastic injection moulding. This form of production uses metal ‘tools’ to produce sprues, usually 6″ by 8″. Each sprue can hold multiple miniatures and, whilst the tools themselves can be very expensive, the cost of plastic is cheap. You also don’t need to worry about yield with injection moulding as each tool will last for tens of millions of casts. Working out a cost per miniature with injection moulding is quite difficult due to the large upfront cost, and the fact that you don’t need to replace the tool. The easiest way to reconcile this is to add the cost of the tool to your initial design outlay instead of factoring it into each miniature’s individual cost.

We can create a sprue for Bob and, because he is quite a simple miniature, we can fit ten of him on each sprue. The cost of the tool is £8,000 and each shot of plastic is £1; the cost per miniature for Bob is therefore £0.10 (=1/10) because we aren’t including the cost of the tool. Kate is much more complicated and takes up an entire sprue on her own. She’s also got some pieces with quite a bit of depth to them, so the tool itself is more expensive at £12,000. We’re still paying £1 per shot, which is how much it will cost us to produce one Kate in plastic.

Cost Per Miniature

(If you’re going to use plastic injection moulding, you’ll need to cut the miniatures differently than for metal and resin. This will obviously incur an additional cost which is not covered in this example.)

Making Money

Now you have a production-ready miniature to sell you need to set your RRP/MSRP. Production costs should normally run somewhere between 15% and 20%, so you can easily calculate your RRP/MSRP by multiplying the cost per miniature by 5 or 6 (note: this is where you need to decide who you’re aiming at; high-end boutique miniatures will obviously have higher production costs, whereas simpler 28mm humans will run closer to 15%). This will often produce a higher RRP/MSRP than you would like, so you’ll need to normalise that cost using other similar miniatures as reference, without undervaluing them.

For metal, at around 15% production costs, we’ll price Bob at £7.99 and Kate at £24.99. For resin our production costs are higher at 20%, so Bob is priced at £12.99 and Kate at £39.99. For plastic it gets a bit more complicated as you’re unlikely to be selling ten Bobs in one retail box, but for our example let’s assume that the sprue can be cut into individual miniatures. Our (ongoing) manufacturing costs are low, so we’ll price Bob and Kate at the same as metal: £7.99 and £24.99 respectively.

RRP / MSRP

(You might think that the resin price for Kate is especially high; wait until you see what happens to that price when we get to distribution.)

Now, this is where things get more complicated. Depending on where in the world your business is based, you will need to account for all appropriate sales taxes. As we are based in the UK we need to take off 20% to cover VAT. You will of course need to charge this to any applicable customers, but you have to pay it back so it works out as a zero sum. If you’re selling your miniatures direct (e.g. from your own web store) you can easily work out your income per miniature by taking the production costs off the net price.

Net Income (Direct Sales)

Selling direct looks good for your bottom line, but your product is only being advertised in one shop window, so your sales potential is limited. If you want to increase your reach you’ll need to start selling into retailers, who will obviously want to make their own cut on the sales. Let’s assume that every retailer buys from you at the same discount (note: normally you’d negotiate deals with each retailer separately and offer tiered discounts depending on how much stock they buy) which we’ll say is 70% of RRP/MSRP.

Net Income (Retail Sales)

Okay, so you’re in 30 or so retailers in the UK and sales are looking good, but you want to break into Europe and the US. You can of course start talking to retailers in those countries directly, but it’s far better (and less stressful) to have a distributor do it for you. Now, obviously, adding another link in the chain is going to impact your bottom line as the distributor will want to take their cut before the miniatures go to retailers, so we’ll say they all buy from you at 50% of RRP/MSRP.

Net Income (Distribution Sales)

Now you know why the RRP/MSRP for a resin Kate is so high! Selling into distributors looks super-painful on paper, but they can exponentially increase your sales potential. You have to ask yourself if you want 80% of a small number, or 50% of a massive number. Of course, you need to have a commercially-viable product to begin with, but that should be your goal from day one even if you only plan to sell small numbers from your own web store.

The Final Reckoning

Let’s remind ourselves of our initial design costs – this is how much we need to clear to make any profit. As noted previously, we’ve included the tool cost in the outlay for our plastic miniatures.

Initial Outlay (Design Costs)

In order to break even we have to sell enough miniatures to clear our investment. We obviously make the most money selling directly, but our customer base is limited. If we sell into distributors we don’t make anywhere near as much money, but we could increase our customer base exponentially. Ultimately you need to decide where your game sits in the market, and plan your production accordingly.

Break Even (No. Miniatures Sold)

Phew! I think we all need a sit down and a nice cup of tea after that.

Now, none of the above covers things like warehouse space, staff salaries for picking and packing, stock insurance, etc. but it should give you an idea of where the money goes, and what the different production processes are like. If this has triggered any further questions in your mind, please post them in the comments below. And, if you have your own experiences to share, we’d especially love to hear that.

Kodiak THF

“When subtlety is uncalled for and stealth unnecessary, hit first and hit hard.”

Shattered Earth - Kodiak THF (Travel Mode) - Concept ArtConcept art by Shen Fei

Corporal Vasilov moved his hand over the control surface and twisted his wrist slightly. The massive metal frame he was commanding deftly stepped over the fallen soldiers in front of it and bounded forwards. He wanted to push his advantage and pursued the remaining Children of the One True God soldiers with a grim determination.

His HUD warned him that his own Coyote Assault Troopers were approaching from the right and so the unit of fleeing Speakers would be forced to pause their retreat in order to engage them. The Speakers had not yet spotted the Coyotes and so felt a moment of relief when they saw the hulking frame of the Kodiak slow to a halt and drop to its knees.

A second later though they saw the Coyotes pause their own pursuit and take cover behind the rubble. The lead Speaker, a battle-hardened veteran named Liebowitz, realised that something terrible was about to happen, and looked over his shoulder just in time to see the stabilised Kodiak spin up its terrifying minigun and slowly strafe his entire unit. As the red mist that was once his fellow soldiers approached his position, Liebowitz barely had time to whisper a prayer to the Prophet before diving into the rubble to avoid being torn apart by the Kodiak’s fearsome weaponry.

At last Vasilov powered down the minigun but remained motionless for a few seconds, surveying the scene to ensure there was no movement. Satisfied, he engaged the control surface again, raising the Kodiak up from its static firing position, and began walking back towards the main battle. Behind it, Liebowitz looked in horror at the patch of red ground where his brothers and sisters once stood mere moments earlier. He turned to regard the departing Kodiak, and thought that perhaps he had seen the devil himself.

Shattered Earth - Kodiak THF (Firing Mode) - Concept ArtConcept art by Shen Fei

The Kodiak Tactical Heavy Frame (THF) is a mobile artillery platform, and the largest frame currently in production. The predominantly-Russian made unit represents the pinnacle of UNM engineering, providing mid-range fire support for UNM soldiers on the front lines, and packing heavy armour and high-impact weaponry for use against multiple different threats.

The Kodiak is physically imposing at almost 12’ high, carrying more than a passing resemblance to the bear it shares a name with. It is often described as a ‘walking tank’, and occupies much the same role on the battlefield. Whilst tracked vehicles are still in use in some operational zones, the rugged terrain of 30 A.E. ensures that heavy frames like the Kodiak are in much more widespread use.

Like most frames the Kodiak is bipedal; however, being a heavy frame, the pilot inside sits within an enclosed cockpit rather than providing direct limb control as with light and medium frames. The cockpit itself is housed within the enlarged chest cavity, with a series of external cameras providing a 360 degree viewport for the pilot.

Piloting a Kodiak is a complex operation, akin to the jet fighters of the previous age. An in-built Static Intelligence (SI) controls most of the more complicated functions of the frame’s multiple systems, with the pilot free to directly control the movement and weaponry. Targeting systems provide all-around coverage, and are able to track high-velocity targets. The frame itself is surprisingly agile, with a rotational mount at the waist allowing the torso to spin through nearly 270 degrees when the legs are planted.

Weaponry varies as the Kodiak can be modified to suit the engagement, with hard-points built into the shoulders and along the length of the arms. Most are equipped with arm-mounted miniguns for mid-range anti-infantry, and top-mounted micro-missile launchers (called MIRVs) for anti-armour and long-range threat elimination.

The thick armour of the Kodiak can withstand almost all projectile weapons, and is insulated against extremes of heat and cold. The outer casing also provides some protection against EMP attacks, although the SI is still susceptible to enemy hacking. To combat this, the SI is protected by a high-level firewall and low-level intrusion counter electronics (ICE).

Echoes

“If real human lives are precious, the simple answer is to create artificial ones to take their place.”

General Martinez looked at Professor Alison Watkins with suspicion. The military commander was aware that she was the most gifted scientist the Advanced Weaponry and Tactics unit had ever produced, but there was something about her that made him uneasy. She had pioneered the research that had created the Echoes, the almost-human front line troops used by the Humanist Rebellion and, for this, the General had the greatest respect for her. However, the more time he spent in her company, discussing the efficacy of the units in combat field tests and suggesting small iterations to improve their performance, the more he thought that the enigmatic scientist may be as coldly indifferent as her creations.

A veteran of countless battles over the last two decades, Martinez had witnessed carnage of the worst kind and was rarely moved by such sights, but there was something about the Echoes that got under his skin. Witnessing one calmly walking up to a fallen enemy and executing it without the faintest glimmer of emotion still jarred. The General had for many years been a front line troop himself and had killed countless foes, but even he felt a tightening of his face and chest when taking a life at close range. Not so the Echoes; they did not kill through a shared responsibility to further the cause of the Humanist Rebellion, or through a sense of duty or drilled-in obedience to the chain of command. No – they were simply programmed to kill.

Initially the first few prototype units were nothing more than metal skeletons, but the human soldiers that took part in the first few field tests found them to be unnerving, and several experienced psychological episodes as a result. In response, Professor Watkins and her team produced a flesh-like gel coating covered in artificial skin to sit on top of this skeleton, helping her creations to look more human and better integrate with the Rebellion’s regular soldiers. Even so, they had found it difficult fighting alongside the Echoes when they looked physically identical to them but could not share in the same camaraderie post-combat.

Martinez reported back to Watkins that a few subtle changes would be needed; something that made the Echoes look slightly less human. Professor Watkins pressed her lips into a thin frown, and began to sketch some adjustments on her tablet. Less variation, each unit’s bar code made more visible to help identify them, more angular features (Watkins remarked that this would save time spent ‘smoothing’ the Echoes’ appearance). Finally she showed the design to Martinez, and the General nodded in agreement; perhaps this would help his men treat them more like weapons rather than fellow soldiers. As he returned to the barracks, he couldn’t help but wonder what terrible consequences might be brought about in the name of protecting human life.

Shattered Earth - Echo - Concept ArtConcept art by Klaus Wittmann

Echoes are currently mankind’s greatest advancement in Artificial Intelligence (AI), made possible through the twin technologies of cybernetics and Whole Brain Emulation (WBE). They are mostly human in outward appearance but have been engineered in a number of key ways. They have not been built to approximate humans perfectly, more they have been built to approximate the perfect human soldier. Many people regard Echoes with suspicion, especially those within the Children of the One True God, who consider Echoes to be inhuman avatars of godlessness, the apex of humanity’s arrogance.

Echoes have a skeleton built of a lightweight and super-strong lattice polymer covered in a bio-farmed skin material that is much tougher than the human equivalent, effectively enabling them to use their bodies as weapons. They have the ability to heal themselves of serious injuries and, in certain circumstances, can shut down extraneous functions in order to fire off an extra shot or two.

Echoes are fully autonomous and have had their brains programmed specifically to be as efficient as possible in combat situations. They lack the capacity to ‘learn’ beyond battle tactics and they neither feel nor exhibit emotion, a ‘good kill’ simply being their prime objective. They carry pulse rifles – more advanced versions of the UNM Modular Assault Rifle – for long range combat. In close combat, they have no need for weapons, as their speed, lack of fear and increased physical toughness enables them to perform martial art attacks directly on their enemies.

Crusaders of the Faith

“To wear the Crusader armour is a privilege; to take it off again a blessing.”

Sister Amonarth did not feel pride – such selfish thoughts were beneath the devoted – and yet still she knew that this was a special day for her. She had served the Prophet faithfully through countless battles as one of the Faithful with squads of Speakers and Listeners, excelling in both melee and ranged combat and catching the eye of her superiors as one possibly worthy of donning the famous Crusader armoured Frame.

To join the ranks of the Crusaders was one of the pinnacles of military achievement for the Children of the One True God, the ultimate reward for their battle-scarred veterans. Sister Amonarth had indeed proven her worthiness and was determined to repay the high-priest’s faith in her abilities at the next opportunity. First, though, it was time for her induction ceremony.

As the music drifted out of the vast doorway, she began to clear her mind and shifted on her stocking feet, slightly cold in her basic underclothes. Then the colossal door opened, revealing the ranks of the Faithful lining the aisle down the centre of the temple, leading to her blessed armour. As the organ music swelled, she strode forwards with her head held high and the choir chanting the hymn of benediction.

The chorus repeated its chant as she slotted the various armour pieces together, enclosing herself completely within the ornate Frame. When the final piece locked into place, the priest adorned her Frame with the heavy fabric garments that represent the Crusaders’ complete devotion to the One True God. She turned slowly to face the congregation, her mind familiarising itself with the neuro-command system that allowed the human controllers to steer the massive Frames. As the chanting came to its tremulous conclusion, Sister Amonarth lifted her Sword of Worship above her head, knowing that the next time she would wield the blade, it would be tearing through her enemies.

Shattered Earth - Crusader - Concept ArtConcept art by Iwo Widuliński

Crusaders typify the military ethos of the Children of the One True God; steadfast in the face of the enemies of the Prophet with a fearless determination to bring them to the sword. They consist of experienced soldiers who have shown the skills and bravery needed to wield the medium Frames and heavy weaponry of the Crusaders wing.

Their Frames consist of mechanically-controlled armour plating, pieced together in a way that enables unimpeded athletic movement and full body defensive coverage. It can absorb a great deal of punishment before the soldier inside comes to harm. A suited-up Crusader is a fearsome sight on the battlefield, around 7 feet tall and immensely broad and strong. Their huge Swords of Worship are far too heavy to be wielded by a normal human but the power of their Frames enables them to be employed with a lethal dexterity.

While approaching their targets with a grim determination, the Crusaders close ranks in a highly effective defensive formation, laying down terrifying covering fire from in-built flechette launchers. What these weapons lack in accuracy they make up for with a terrible destructive power that can freeze enemies in their tracks, leaving those who survive the onslaught to face the mighty blades in close combat, where the Crusaders are brutally effective.

Michael Abdul Shahid

“The truly strong need not shout; they can destroy with the merest whisper.”

The forward operating base was in disarray, the shell-shocked soldiers cowering in the rubble amongst the remains of their fallen comrades. Since the previous night, wave after wave of Cultists had been bombarding the small group of buildings that the Children of the One True God were occupying. The call had gone out to the main battalion for reinforcements but they were many hours away and, in the ensuing chaos, the Children’s front line had been reduced to a dozen remaining soldiers.

As the massed ranks of Cultists prepared for yet another frenzied assault, the few remaining Faithful were beginning to question their orders from the Prophet, such was their fear of failure at the hands of the blasphemous horrors of the Cult of the Dragon. Their eyes, wide with panic, darted between each other and the roiling mass of Cultists only a few hundred feet away. One of them dropped his weapon and fell to his knees, arms outstretched towards the heavens, and he shouted a prayer to the One True God to send them some sign of hope.

It was into this scene that Michael Abdul Shahid stepped, alongside an elite unit of Crusaders. A wave of optimism spread around the group at the appearance of one of the finest soldiers of the Children of the One True God. A few of the Faithful openly wept at this timely gift from the Holy One. Shahid stood at their centre, silently looking at each of them, one by one, saying nothing. He knew from experience that his presence alone was enough to rally the remaining troops and fill them with the strength of the Prophet.

As they slowly got to their feet and turned to face the enemy, Shahid, still silent, strode to the front and raised his monumental blade above his head. He strode out towards the onrushing Cultists, flanked by his Crusaders and the newly invigorated ranks of the Faithful. His mind was perfectly calm and full only of thoughts of the divine righteousness of his mission as he cleaved through the torsos of the first wave of Cultists.

Shattered Earth - Michael Abdul Shahid - Concept ArtConcept art by Iwo Widuliński

Michael Abdul Shahid is an elite soldier who commands a unit of his fellow Crusaders into battle in his specially adapted Frame, engineered to protect his vital organs that were traitorously wounded by a former UNM colleague before he saw the light and gave himself to the Prophet. Shahid’s legendary bravery over countless battles commands total loyalty from the units under his command, and gives him the appearance of total serenity, even when meting out violent retribution to the blasphemous.

He declines to equip helmet armour to his Frame to better see both his brothers and sisters, and his enemies, faithfully relying on the protection of the Prophet. His many displays of bravery in the name of the Holy One are evidenced by the gold seals and purple sashes that adorn his Crusader armour and cloak.

Shahid’s modified Crusader armour is equipped with a powerful heavy flamer, giving him moderate ranged capability and a useful crowd control tool. He also carries the legendary Sword of the Prophet, a weapon that radiates etheric power. He is able to decimate anyone or anything in close combat range with a combination of balletic swordsmanship and righteous fury.

Aurora, the Light of Progress

“Perfection can never truly be reached but to journey endlessly closer is a reward in itself.”

Doctor Tellason stood back and admired her work, her legs shaking slightly as the adrenaline started to wane and the tiredness began to wash over her. On the operating table was the unconscious body of perhaps the most important figure on the continent: Aurora.

This was the seventeenth time that Tellason, the most gifted surgeon among the Humanist Rebellion ranks, had operated on Aurora and each successful procedure pushed her to the edge of her technical abilities. She stepped out of the theatre to rest for a few minutes before Aurora would wake and require debriefing. Usually, she would have hours between finishing surgery and the patient being conscious and coherent but Aurora was no ordinary human.

As she opened her eyes, they darted straight for Dr Tellason. “Status?” she demanded, her tone cool and precise. “The procedure was a complete success” replied the surgeon, “The neural lash now has increased efficacy at longer distances”. “Clear the range so I can confirm for myself”.

As Aurora strode into the basement weaponry facility, the few HR soldiers engaged in target practice stopped and stared at their most famous example, keen to witness the fruit of Doctor Tellason’s most recent labours. Aurora paused briefly at the first free space and focused briefly on the target, 30 meters to her left, before her arm sprang out and the strands of pure Etheric energy whipped towards and around the solid metal figure, instantly ripping the head from its body. The nearest soldier thought he saw the glimmer of a smile in her pale, crystalline eyes but, as she lowered her arm and the lash retracted, she left the range looking as cold and expressionless as usual, a striking juxtaposition of human and machine.

Shattered Earth - Aurora - Concept ArtConcept art by Klaus Wittmann

Until the siege of Omsk in 12 A.E., Aurora was Najia Sahiri, a dedicated and valuable front line soldier for the European Socialist Collective (ESC) and then the Humanist Rebellion (HR). In that fateful battle, Najia lost her right arm and was subsequently offered an honourable discharge from the army. Rather than accepting this, she volunteered to be the first human subject to have a bio-mech limb replacement. Unlike the crude butchery of the Cult of the Dragon’s modifications, the HR had carefully developed advanced neural receiver hardware that enabled users to control bionic limbs as though they were their own.

Over the following years, the HR used Najia to perfect the blossoming scientific discipline of cybernetics, testing each new advancement for effectiveness on the battlefield and, as she gradually became less human and more machine, she took the name Aurora. She is now the most advanced being on earth that is still ostensibly ‘human’. The questions around her powers and intelligence and whether she has become a mere human skin wrapped around an advanced Artificial Intelligence give her an air of mystery. She is aware of her own legend and does nothing to dispel the many stories she hears about herself – whether true or fantasy – to better keep her enemies guessing.

Among the stories of her ‘magical’ powers whispered by her enemies there is a kernel of truth. Her Light Frame armour is connected directly to her brain via a neural interface and on top of the standard HR loadout, contains the addition of two powered glide unit ‘wings’ that she can extend from the back of her Frame and travel short distances through the air, swooping in on her enemies before tearing them down with the graphene shard projectors embedded in her wrists. These short range, rapid-firing weapons use mono-filament ammunition to shred anything close to her. To complement this she has an Etherically-powered neural lash which unleashes tendrils of incandescent energy, tearing apart heavy armour and organics with ease.

Biomancer

“The bleeding edge of technology cuts through the darkness and reveals the divine”

Moon Ji-ho surveyed the battlefield, his visor’s HUD overlaying the scorched landscape and severed limbs with digital readouts, informing him that the Humanist Rebellion patrol squad that his Cultists had ambushed had been reduced to three remaining Echoes. To his right he saw four Acolytes charging towards the nearest enemy and his AI neural unit showed him an 88% chance of a favourable engagement outcome.

He set his sights on the two Echoes ahead of him; the first was injured and was being tended to by the second. Moon Ji-ho calculated that the optimal strategy was to fire off a grenade and then rush the unsuspecting units. As his bio-arm absorbed the recoil of the phosphorous launcher, his massive bulk was raised into the air by the tentacle-like mechanical limbs that emerged from the powered harness encircling him.

Three of the tentacles darted forward like spiders’ legs, carrying Moon Ji-ho at high speed, his flowing robes billowing around his suspended legs. As he powered through the smoke from his grenade, he found the injured Echo was now little more than a still-steaming mound of flesh and bone on the ground, whilst the other was scrambling to raise its rifle towards him through the damage of its own burns. His free mechanical tentacle flew forwards and crashed into the Echo’s face before it had the chance to fire its weapon, his metal claws tearing through the flesh and bio-matter of the newly limp Echo.

Moon Ji-ho looked at the slaughtered remains of the enemies of the Cult and was pleased. He loudly chanted a prayer to the Dragon in the direction of the three remaining Acolytes and they enthusiastically shouted the words back at him. His neural interface auto-administered a local anaesthetic to his right leg where he noticed a deep six inch gash and his adrenalin was re-balanced so he could begin the long journey back to their temple in a state of calm meditation, ready to pass on the news of this latest glorious victory.

Shattered Earth - Biomancer - Concept ArtConcept art by Iwo Widuliński

Biomancers are the tech-priests of the Cult; half surgeon and half preacher. They occupy a place of relative reverence in part due to their extreme devotion to body augmentation, and their ability to manipulate technology. They are the walking embodiment of all the Cult strives to achieve – forced evolution without the cloying interference of morality.

Each Biomancer has a unique set of augmentations, but all utilise a powered harness of some kind, usually a series of mechanical tentacles in addition to or in replacement of standard human limbs. These tentacles offer unparalleled flexibility when working, and can be used to pin opponents in combat and literally tear them apart.

In addition to these close-range cybernetic enhancements, Biomancers use medium-range projectiles as a deterrent, favouring the inaccurate but highly-effective phosphorous launcher. This is sometimes housed within the tentacle armature if used in place of a limb, but is sometimes carried like a regular firearm. The phosphorous launcher is a ‘shock and awe’ weapon, delivering incendiary grenades that burn flesh and armour alike, giving the Biomancer a chance to get away or to soften up an enemy before a brutal melee attack.

Drekavacs, the Scurriers

“A door was left ajar. And through that door, darkness poured out.”

Shattered Earth - Drekavacs - Concept ArtConcept art by Marco Caradonna

As the last of the day’s light winked out from behind the trees, Iosif closed his door and set the latches. There was a chill in the night, he thought; the snows would come early this year. He took up the lantern and carried it through into the main room of the cabin, setting it down on the centre of the wooden table. He fetched his pipe and tobacco from the inside pocket of his jacket, and began to pack the small clay bowl. The light from the lantern flickered slightly, casting unusual shadows against the walls. Iosif stopped momentarily and sniffed the air. The moment passed and he set to packing his pipe again.

The sudden gust of wind nearly knocked Iosif off his feet, scattering books and ornaments and taking the pipe from his hand. An orange light flew across the room and died against the wall as the lantern shattered. The wind was followed by the strong, acrid smell of meat left too long on the spit. As Iosif steadied himself and his eyes adjusted to the near-darkness inside the cabin, he caught sight of a dull grey-green light spilling out from his bedroom. Pulling himself upright, he made his way out through the doorway.

What greeted him was a sight he could scarcely believe. Where his bedroom had once stood there was now nothing – a vast hole had been carved out of the surrounding material, as if a massive sphere had simply deleted whatever was there before. In the centre of the sphere, suspended several metres above the ground, was a pulsing greenish ball of what looked for all the world like electricity. As the ball pulsed it cast strange shadows across the broken earth, shapes that made Iosif’s mind reel, but he could not comprehend the source of these penumbra.

Making the sign of the cross, Iosif began to back away. It was then that he heard the first terrified scream, followed by another, then shouts of alarm and the sharp crack of gunfire. He turned to run and was suddenly engulfed by many limbs, barbed and hooking deep into his flesh, dragging him down into the wet dirt. His own scream soon joined the others, but was cut short, dying in his throat as the darkness enveloped him.

Sculpting by Glauco Longhi

In Slavic mythology, Drekavacs are said to be the souls of unbaptised children cursed to roam the world forever. In Shattered Earth, they are the lowliest foot-soldiers of the Deathless. Whether the old myth is true or not is largely irrelevant; whatever ‘role’ they once had has now been largely forgotten. Instead, ‘Dreks’ as they are called by most of humanity were the first beings from the immateria to set foot on Earth after the Breaking of the World – the herald of what was to come.

They manifest as small bipedal creatures, more bone and sinew than most Shadow-aspected Deathless, their smokey-skin stretched tight across their forms. They are utterly alien, devoid of reason save for the instinct to hunt and kill, swarming over their prey and tearing them limb from limb. On its own, a single Drekavac poses little problem for a trained soldier, but in numbers they can decimate the unprepared.

Coyote Assault Troopers

“Give me soldiers who can think and I will give you victory.”

Cpl Maria Perez lay flat at the top of the bluff and peered down through the early morning mist at the target building. From their vantage point, Perez and her fellow Coyotes had a clear view of the former school that UNM intel revealed to be a forward operating base for the Cult of the Dragon. They had observed the structure for twelve hours now and, although they had not witnessed any movement or signs of life, Perez noticed that the walls were pockmarked with the signs of a recent firefight. The Ether readings from the nearby village were also off the chart, so she knew that this was exactly the sort of location that she would expect to find the Cultists lurking.

“All units, ready up”, Perez ordered over the closed loop comms system, and was aware of dozens of hidden bodies rising to their knees, ready to move on her command. “Sharp eyes, CATs, it’s gonna be pretty tight in there. I want everyone in, two by two, standard CQC. If these Cultists really are here, you know what to do. Weapons ready, let’s move”.

The CATs fell immediately into their well drilled formation and made their way quickly down the hillside, weapons pointed at the school’s main exits, their eyes darting from window to window as the building filled their field of vision. Halfway through the 300m sprint, there was still no movement in front of them as they fanned out and slowed to a quick march. As they drew to within throwing distance of the front wall, the silence of the previous minute was broken by the shattering of glass as a dozen tattooed and snarling Acolytes burst through the first floor windows and hit the ground running full speed towards them.

Perez grinned to herself as she dropped to one knee and fired a burst through the chest of the leading cultist; “All units, weapons free! Let’s send these bastards back to school”.

Coyote Assault Troopers (CATs) are an amalgamation of U.S. Marines, Canadian Army Rangers, and Russian Rifle Troops. They are the work-horses of the UNM military, moving into previously-scouted areas in large numbers and with well-drilled effectiveness. They move mainly on foot, covering ground quickly, and are experts at finding and holding strategically important points on the battlefield.

CATs are lightly armoured and, due to the effectiveness of their lightweight composite armor, they have a great balance of defensive strength and maneuverability. They carry mid-range automatic, projectile-based weaponry – mainly assault rifles – which can project a solid offensive force whilst maintaining flexibility. In addition they all carry a machine pistol sidearm and a trauma pack. Whilst all CATs are bio-engineered, they have few visible augmentations. Reflecting the overall ideology of the UNM, most advanced or Ether-based technology tends to be worn or man-portable.